Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Business and Economy

Business and Economy (749)

•‘It’s FG’s ploy to destroy public varsities’

SOME Vice-Chancellors and the Academic Staff Union of Universities have rejected the decision of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to peg admission cut-off mark at 120 for universities and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education.

ASUU said the action, which it described as a “sad policy decision,” was in tandem “with the dream of the present government to destroy public universities in the country.”

Most of the vice-chancellors our correspondents interviewed on the issue maintained that they would not lower admission standards in their respective varsities.

The vice-chancellors stated that the decision would add no value to the nation’s university system.

For instance, in a statement issued by the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, on the issue and released by his Media Assistant, Mr. Sunday Saanu, on Thursday,  the premier university stated that it would never admit any candidate that scored 120 in the UTME.

The statement added, “It should worry us as patriots that candidates who scored just 30 per cent in the UTME can be admitted into some of our universities. Yet, we complain of poor quality of our graduates. You can hardly build something on nothing. The consolation here is that since JAMB started conducting this qualifying exam in 1978, UI has never admitted any candidate who scored less than 200 marks out of the maximum 400 marks.

“This translates to a minimum of 50 per cent. This remains our position as an institution aspiring to be world-class. Reality is that only about four other universities in the country have such high standard. To that extent, apart from being the oldest, we are an elite university in the country at least judging by the quality of our intakes.’’

Olayinka, however, commended the decision of the Federal Government to re-introduce the post-UTME test and exonerated the incumbent JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, from the cancellation of the test two sessions ago.

“It is gratifying to note that the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who chaired the meeting, apologised publicly for canceling the post-UTME screening last year.

“In effect, universities are now allowed to conduct the test using modalities approved by the Senate of each institution.

“To be fair to the incumbent Registrar of JAMB, he was not the Registrar when the policy somersault of cancelling the post-UTME test was made last year. As strongly canvassed by us at every opportunity, for UI, the need to admit the best admission seekers is the primary motivation for the test and not money, even though we do not pretend that you can run any university so properly called without funds.”

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Thursday, the Vice-Chancellor, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ogun State, Prof. Oluyemisi Obilade, said that the onus would ultimately fall on parents and employers of labour to decide “between a first-class graduate of a university which takes 120 as its cut-off mark or one that takes 180 as its cut-off mark.’’

Obilade, who said that TASUED would never go below 180, insisted that many of the VCs at the Combined Policy Meeting during which the 120 benchmark decision was made, said they would not go below 180.

She said, “But some universities chose 120 at the meeting. What the JAMB has done is to transfer power back to the Senate of universities to decide their cut-off marks.  What I can tell you is that many public universities and even private universities will not go below 200. We were told that some universities were doing what they called ‘under the table admission’ and then come back to JAMB after four years for regularisation.

“TASUED will not go below 180, not under my watch. Even in the United States, there is what we call Ivy League universities, and there are those you can call ‘Next Level Universities.’ There are also those that are termed community colleges. At the meeting, the outcome is that universities have been given the freedom to decide. It is not general legislation and it is not binding on everybody.’’

Speaking with journalists in Ibadan, the Chairman of ASUU at the University of Ibadan, Dr. Deji Omole, said it was the dream of the present government to destroy education in the country.

He said, “Rather than sanctioning the identified universities that admitted over 17,000 students illegally, the JAMB registrar simply regularised illegality and lowered cut-off marks to favour the interests of the friends of government who own private universities and are hell bent on destroying public education.”

Omole said it was vital for JAMB to be scrapped in order to save the nation’s education and its future. He said the board had outlived its usefulness and that prospective students should apply directly to universities of their choice for admission.

He said, “Where are the students that the JAMB registrar said entered universities illegally? Which universities admitted them? If 30 per cent did not take JAMB and found their way into the university system, is that not corruption and a message that JAMB is not significant anymore? What sanction did those who did the illegal thing receive other than regularisation of illegality.

“We are watching because long before now we have said that JAMB has outlived its usefulness. Let the universities set their unique standards and those who are qualified can come in. Scoring 120 out of 400 marks is 30 per cent. Even in those days, 40 per cent was graded as pass. But now JAMB said with F9 which is scoring 30 per cent you can be admitted.

“They deliberately want to destroy education. Even for polytechnic, 100 marks is 25 per cent. It is sad. And that is where we are in Nigeria. They want to destroy public education at all costs. This is not setting standard for education in Nigeria. It is purely lowering standards and digging grave for the future. This is why ASUU is currently on the struggle to influence the government to do the needful for education in Nigeria.”

Also, the Dean of Students Affairs, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Prof. Kayode Alese, who spoke on behalf of FUTA management, said that the institution would soon unveil its cut-off mark.

“However, I can assure you that FUTA has never gone as low as 120. It has never happened and it will never happen,” he said.

Alese added, “Having spoken for the university, my personal opinion is that the 120 cut-off mark will not add value to our education system.  The Federal Government has just increased the pass mark from 40 to 45 in universities. What that means is that you must score at least 45 for you to pass any course. We have enough candidates and yes you may try to increase access but tertiary education should be for those who have the capability.’’

Also, the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Tope Ogunmodede, said the institution would not admit any candidate with 120 UTME score.

He said, “Traditionally, OAU has never admitted students who scored below 200 in the UTME. For us, we are sticking to 200. The minimum benchmark is 120 but you can go higher than that. I expect that an institution should be able to determine the quality of its graduates because there are internal exams. What has been done is to provide a leeway for universities to decide their cut-off marks.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students has described the reduction of the cut-off marks for admission into tertiary institutions as “a gross misplacement of priority and an exercise in futility.”

The organisation said that the reduction by JAMB, from 180 for universities and 165 polytechnics, to 120 and 100 respectively for the 2017 UTME, would translate to a disastrous outcome in the future.

The President of NANS, Chinonso Obasi, in a statement on Thursday, threatened that the decision would be resisted if JAMB refused to adhere to the status quo.

He said, “As critical stakeholders in the educational sector, NANS will vehemently resist the review and call on government to maintain the status quo and endeavour to conduct a comparative study and analysis of policies from other climes that support functional learning and production of young people that can compete with their peers globally.

 “Even with the current status, the general phenomenon is that Nigerian graduates are not employable. The lowering of standards will translate to a disastrous outcome in the future by churning out young people who cannot fit into the demands and expectations of the 21st century.’’

According to him, since the 21st century is being driven by innovation and competitiveness, lowering the entry level into tertiary institutions would only further contribute to reducing the productivity and peak performance of young people seeking admission into the country’s higher institutions of learning.

However, the Vice-Chancellor of the Christopher University, Ogun State, Prof. Friday Ndubuisi, said the new admission benchmark would have no negative implication on the quality of education.

He said, “This is not an imposition.  The cut-off mark is a minimum benchmark for admission. This idea of taking the UTME every year without getting admission is worrying. About 1.6 million candidates sat for the examination this year and about 500,000 will be admitted mostly because of the cut-off mark. Most universities will not go below 200, but with five credits obtained in two sittings, a person should be qualified for admission.  This is, however, not an imposition.  Universities still get to decide on whom to admit through the post-UTME.’’

Posted On Friday, 25 August 2017 01:38 Written by

There has been a significant increase in the number of children used as human bombs by Boko Haram militants in north-east Nigeria, the United Nations says.

Unicef reports there have been 83 cases so far this year - four times as many as in the whole of last year.

55 were girls under the age of 15 and in one case the bomb was strapped to a baby being carried by a young girl.

Unicef says this tactic is an atrocity causing fear and suspicion of children released by the militants.

 

According to the UN children's agency, 127 children have been used as bombers in north-east Nigeria since 2014.

The Islamist militants Boko Haram have regularly used children in its insurgency, abducting hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruiting boys as child soldiers.

Posted On Wednesday, 23 August 2017 00:51 Written by
 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said the unity of the country would not be open to any negotiation.

The President, in its first statement to Nigerians since he returned to Nigeria after a 104-day medical vacation in London, added that political mischief makers who were fuelling ethnic violence would be dealt with.

Buhari, who said he was not against legitimate concerns, noted that different groups must air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.

“The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse,” he added.

The President said he had been monitoring developments in Nigeria from London, adding that some comments, especially on the social media, crossed the national red line by questioning the nation’s continued existence.

Apparently making a reference to the recent quit notice to people of Igbo extraction by some northern youths, Buhari said “every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.”

He said terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of Nigerians could live in peace and safety.

The President said his administration would reinforce and reinvigorate the fight against elements of Boko Haram, which he said, were attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets.

The speech read in part, “I am very grateful to God and to all Nigerians for their prayers. I am pleased to be back on home soil among my brothers and sisters.

In the course of my stay in the United Kingdom, I have been kept in daily touch with events at home. Nigerians are robust and lively in discussing their affairs, but I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially in the social media have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.

In 2003 after I joined partisan politics, the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu came and stayed as my guest in my hometown Daura. Over two days we discussed in great depth till late into the night and analyzed the problems of Nigeria. We both came to the conclusion that the country must remain one and united.

Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.

Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.

I believe the very vast majority of Nigerians share this view.

This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.

The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse.

The national consensus is that, it is better to live together than to live apart.

Furthermore, I am charging the Security Agencies not to let the successes achieved in the last 18 months be a sign to relax.

Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety.

Therefore we are going to reinforce and reinvigorate the fight not only against; elements of Boko Haram which are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets, kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes;  in addition to ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers. We shall tackle them all.

Finally, dear Nigerians, our collective interest now is to eschew petty differences and come together to face common challenges of; economic security,       political evolution and integration; as well as lasting peace among all Nigerians.

I remain resolutely committed to ensuring that these goals are achieved and maintained. I am so glad to be home.”

Posted On Monday, 21 August 2017 10:04 Written by

Two Nigerian residents of the United States, Messrs Temilade Adekunle and Abdulrasheed Yusuf, have been arrested on suspicion of forgery, ID theft and communications fraud.

Their victims are American couple, Steve and Andrea Voss. The money allegedly stolen from them was their retirement fund.

According to Mrs. Andrea Voss, one of her lifelong goals was to see different parts of the country, including Hawaii. “That’s been my one dream,” she said. “I really want to go there.”

Andrea and her husband, Steve Voss, are a year and a half into their retirement, local TV station, KSL, reports.

 
Victims: Steve and Andrea Voss.

Last week, they took a trip to Yellowstone, but when they got back on Friday, August 11, they noticed there was a serious issue with the money they’ve saved for retirement.

“I was curious because the market was doing well this past week and I said, ‘What’s that at?’” Steve Voss said. “And I logged into my account and it’s a zero-dollar balance.”

Added Andrea Voss, “He told me and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. This can’t happen to me. This happens to other people.’”

Steve Voss says someone had used his personal details to liquidate their account. The check had already gone out.

“The package has been sent but redirected from my home for pickup somewhere else,” he said.

Unified police said the package hadn’t been picked up yet, so they set up a plan to be there when someone came to get it.

Eventually, police said two men showed up to get the package. Police said they followed the two and pulled them over. They said the men had fake out-of-state IDs and a separate 401(k) check from another person.

A 401(k) is a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It lets workers save and invest a piece of their paycheck before taxes are taken out. Taxes aren’t paid until the money is withdrawn from the account.

Unified police detective Shawn Fausett said all credit is due to the Vosses for checking their account.

“In reality, this whole case is hinged upon Mr. Voss checking his balance,” Fausett said. “If he wouldn’t have checked his balance until (Monday) morning at 9 a.m., it would have been too late because the suspects would have been gone.”

Police identified the two suspects as Temilade Adekunle and Abdulrasheed Yusuf.

They arrested the two for investigation of forgery, ID theft and communications fraud.

Police believe the two had flown into Salt Lake City to pick up the checks. Officials believe the men were getting ready to leave town again.

Police are also looking into whether or not other people in the area may have had similar experience.

The total amount between these two checks, police say, was around $120,000.

“That money would have gone to the suspects,” Fausett said, “but the victims actually are losing more because the 401(k)s were cashed out early, and they had penalty taxes and so forth, so the victims themselves are probably out $150,000 if the checks are actually cashed.”

Now, the Vosses are extra careful and they hope others will keep an eye out as well.

“People typically don’t check their 401(k)s until they get a statement in the mail,” Steve Voss said. “Get online and check your 401(k) at least once a week.”

(KSL)

Posted On Sunday, 20 August 2017 11:34 Written by
The death toll from a mudslide and flooding that struck Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown has reached 441, the government said on Saturday. 

“Four hundred and forty-one corpses (were) buried as at yesterday,” the deputy minister of information and communication, Cornelius Deveaux, told AFP, adding that the number of missing was “still being calculated.”

A tally of deaths, issued on Friday by the Red Cross, had stood at more than 400, with around 600 others listed as missing.

At Connaught Hospital, morgue worker Mohamed Sinneh Kamara gave a slightly higher toll than the minister’s.

“We buried 50 more bodies on Friday. We have so far buried 450 corpses,” he told AFP. “Most of the bodies were found decomposed and families were not allowed to identify (them).”

He added: “We’re receiving calls from disaster-hit communities every three to four hours about a corpse found in a drainage or under a collapsed building.”

Three more bodies were found in a search for survivors in the Regent district, where the side of a hill collapsed, the emergency services said.

The disaster struck on Monday after Freetown, home to 1.2 million people and the capital of one of the world’s poorest countries, had been pounded for three days by torrential rain.

According to the charity Save the Children, the disaster killed 122 children and left 123 orphaned.

The Red Cross has issued an emergency funding appeal. Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, has pledged £5 million ($6.45 million, 5.45 million euros), while China has pledged $1 million (850,000 euros) and Togo $500,000.

Water-borne diseases such as cholera and malaria are a major fear.

“This is a potential health hazard. That’s why we need to continue the operations to ensure that we remove as much dead bodies as possible,” said Colonel Abu Bakarr Sidique Bah of the Sierra Leone armed forces.

But the search for victims has been arduous, especially in the Regent neighbourhood.

“It is actually thousands of tonnes of rubble that have fallen… (down) the hill… And the inclement weather, the rain, has also made it very difficult for equipment to move within the affected area,” he said.

Flooding is an annual menace in Sierra Leone, where ramshackle homes are regularly swept away by seasonal rains. In 2015, floods killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 21:20 Written by

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected back in Nigeria today Saturday 19th of August 2019.

The President had left Nigeria since May 7th to meet up with follow up consultation with his doctors in the United Kingdom.

A statement by the Special Adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, reads ‘The President had left the country on May 7, this year, after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has functioned as Acting President since then.

“President Buhari is expected to speak to Nigerians in a broadcast by 7 a.m on Monday, August 21, 2017.

“He thanks all Nigerians who have prayed ceaselessly for his recovery and well-being since the beginning of the health challenge, ” it stated

The President had left the country on May 7, this year, after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has functioned as Acting President since then.

He returned in March to announce to his countrymen that he had never felt so ill in his life.

It would be recalled that President Buhari left Nigeria on May 7 for another round of medical attention two months after his return from similar medical vacation, the same day he received 82 Chibok Girls freed by Boko Haram.

While away in London, President Buhari received a number of visitors, beginning with the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who first hinted Nigerians about the President’s massive recovery.

After him came a stream of visitors, that included leaders of the All Progressives Congress, state governors, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the leaders of the National Assembly, Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara. His last visitor on Friday was Pastor Enoch Adeboye, leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

After his visit, Saraki announced confidently that Buhari’s return was imminent.

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 11:04 Written by

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo attends the inauguration of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda in Kigali, the country's capital city, August 18th, 2017.

Posted On Saturday, 19 August 2017 01:27 Written by

Zimbabwe's government has sought diplomatic immunity for President Robert Mugabe's wife in the assault case against her in South Africa, South Africa's police ministry has said.

Grace Mugabe was still in South Africa, it added, contradicting earlier reports that she had returned to Zimbabwe.

A 20-year-old South African model has accused Mrs Mugabe of assaulting her at a hotel in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Police expected Mrs Mugabe, 52, to turn herself in on Tuesday, but she did not.

Zimbabwe's government had invoked "diplomatic immunity cover" for her, the ministry said in a statement.

However, South Africa still wanted to make sure that she was "processed through the legal system", the ministry added.

Discussions were taking place with Mrs Mugabe's lawyers and the Zimbabwean High Commission over the issue, it said.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee earlier, South Africa's acting police chief Lesetja Mothiba said that Mrs Mugabe "must go to court".

 
Grace Mugabe is accused of assaulting a woman

She has not commented since police began investigating her over the alleged assault.


South Africa's diplomatic dilemma

Farouk Chothia, BBC Africa

South Africa's government risks a public backlash if it lets Mrs Mugabe go scot-free.

This happened in 2015, when it failed to execute an international arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir who was wanted by the International Criminal Court.

South Africa's government argued that he qualified for diplomatic immunity, but the country's judges disagreed. The government was then strongly criticised for undermining the rule of law.

It seems that the government wants to avoid a similar backlash and is therefore insisting that Mrs Mugabe must appear in court.

But by taking such an approach it risks a diplomatic row with Zimbabwe's government - a staunch ally whom it has resolutely defended over the years despite international criticism of President Robert Mugabe's human rights record.

So the two governments are bound to be in talks to resolve the crisis over Mrs Mugabe.

One option being mentioned in the South African media is that Mrs Mugabe should plead guilty during a short court appearance, and pay a fine.

But it is unclear whether Mr and Mrs Mugabe - known for their uncompromising nature - will agree to this, especially after Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party said in a tweet on Tuesday that the first lady was "attacked", contradicting the version of her accuser.


Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the first lady was a "total disgrace and a complete national embarrassment".

"She has to be brought to order and indeed she has to appreciate that she is not a law unto herself," it added in a statement.

Confusion surrounded the case, with South Africa's Police Minister Fikile Mbalula saying at one point on Tuesday that Mrs Mugabe had handed herself over to police and would appear in court.

She did not appear and police later said she had agreed to turn herself in but then failed to do so.

Police opened a case of assault against Mrs Mugabe after the model, Gabriella Engels, accused her of hitting her over the head with an extension cord.

The alleged assault took place after Mrs Mugabe found her with the first lady's two sons, Robert and Chatunga, in a hotel room in Sandton, a wealthy suburb north of Johannesburg, on Sunday evening.

Mrs Mugabe's sons, who are both in their 20s, live in South Africa.

The first lady was in South Africa to be treated for an ankle injury when the alleged assault took place, Zimbabwean media reported.

Ms Engels released an image of a head injury online.

Photo posted by Gabriella EngelsImage copyrightGABRIELLA ENGELS
Gabriella Engels says she was beaten with an extension cord

"When Grace entered I had no idea who she was," she told South African broadcaster News24.

"She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it. She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised. I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.

"There was blood everywhere," she added. "Over my arms, in my hair, everywhere."

She registered a "case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm", police said.


Who is Grace Mugabe?

Grace Mugabe addressing her maiden political rally in Chinhoyi October 2, 2014Image copyrightREUTERS
  • Began an affair with Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior, while working as a typist in state house
  • Mr Mugabe later said his first wife Sally, who was terminally ill at the time, knew and approved of the relationship
  • Married Mr Mugabe, her second husband, in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony. They have three children
  • Nicknamed "Gucci Grace" by her critics, who accuse her of lavish spending
  • Along with her husband, is subject to EU and US sanctions, including travel bans
  • Praised by supporters for her charitable work and founding of an orphanage
  • Received a PhD in September 2014, a month after being nominated to take over the leadership of the Zanu-PF women's league
Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 23:07 Written by

At least 600 people are still missing following a mudslide and flooding that devastated parts of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, a spokesman for the president has told the BBC.

President Ernest Bai Koroma earlier pleaded for "urgent support", saying entire communities had been wiped out.

Nearly 400 people are confirmed dead after a mudslide in the Regent area and floods elsewhere in Freetown on Monday.

The Red Cross has warned it is a race against time to find survivors.

A mass burial of victims is planned on Wednesday to free up space in mortuaries.

Presidential spokesman Abdulai Baraytay told the BBC that bodies were still being pulled from the mud and rubble.

"The entire community is now in mourning. Loved ones are still missing, well over 600 people," he said.

 
Sierra Leone mudslides: Rescue and recovery operation in Freetown

The UN said its teams in Sierra Leone had mobilised and were supporting rescue efforts.

"Contingency plans are being put in place to mitigate any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Homes in the hilltop community of Regent were engulfed after part of Sugar Loaf mountain collapsed following heavy rain early on Monday. Many victims were asleep in bed when disaster struck.

President Koroma fought back tears as he toured Regent on Monday and said the devastation was "overwhelming us".

"Entire communities have been wiped out. We need urgent support now," he said.

Map shows the location of the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown

He urged people to stay away from the affected areas.

"This tragedy of great magnitude has once again challenged us to come together, to stand by each other and to help one another," he said.

Flooding is not unusual in Sierra Leone, where unsafe housing in makeshift settlements can be swept away by heavy rains.

The rains often hit areas in and around Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of more than one million people.

Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 11:41 Written by

Three female suicide bombers have carried out an attack that has killed at least 27 people in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.

Dozens were injured when the women blew themselves up outside a refugee camp near Maiduguri in Borno state - a stronghold of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

There has been an upsurge in violence in the city in recent months.

Boko Haram has been fighting to set up an Islamic state since 2009.

A report published by US anti-terrorist researchers last week said it is the first insurgency in history to use more women suicide bombers than men.

Baba Kura, a member of a vigilante force set up to fight the jihadists, told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the first bomber blew herself up near the camp, triggering panic.

"People were trying to close their shops when two other female bombers triggered their explosives, causing most of the casualties," he said.

Last year, Nigeria's government said that Boko Haram had been defeated.

But correspondents say that the army is failing to stop the attacks, and people have continued to flee their homes in Borno State and poured into camps.

Map locator
Posted On Wednesday, 16 August 2017 01:40 Written by
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